Day 6·Q&A

Mariko Tamaki is the new mind behind Wonder Woman comic book

Moviegoers will have to wait a little while longer to see Gal Gadot take up the golden lasso once more, thanks to a COVID-19-related delay. But Toronto writer Mariko Tamaki is working hard to ensure that Wonder Woman's stories continue to be told, as she prepares to take over the legendary comic book title.

Comic books are 'a world of grown-up kids at heart,' says Toronto writer

Mariko Tamaki is a Canadian comic creator. (Shawnee Custalow)

Moviegoers will have to wait a little while longer to see Gal Gadot take up Wonder Woman's golden lasso once more, thanks to a COVID-19-related delay.

But Toronto writer Mariko Tamaki is working hard to ensure that the character's stories continue to be told, as she prepares to take over the legendary comic book title.

Her run on the book begins with issue #759 this June, with art by Mikel Janín and cover art by David Marquez.

Tamaki is no stranger to writing stories about superpowered heroines. Her work in comics includes titles featuring Supergirl, She-Hulk, Harley Quinn and X-23 — Wolverine's clone daughter, for those who haven't seen Logan.

She spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury about what's involved in taking the helm of a series with decades of history — and equally lofty expectations from its fans. Here's part of their conversation.

You have a relationship that goes back to your childhood with this character. So does it speak to that part of you? To the little girl that was in love with this character at some level?

I'm trying not to let a little girl in me write this. I'm sure the little girl in me who wanted an invisible jet and lasso is pleased. That young part of me is satisfied, but, like, not at the wheel in this situation.

Cover art for Wonder Woman #759, out June 10, 2020. Written by Mariko Tamaki. (David Marquez/DC Comics)

Because the superhero comic writing world is a grown-up world, right?

It's a world of grown-up kids at heart, I think. I mean, I can't imagine that you're fully a grown-up person if this is how you decide to spend your time.

I certainly can say that I am a grown-up person in many ways, but there's definitely a part of me that has a little kid's spirit that was enthralled with the stuff [from] when you were younger. And then that kind of sticks with you.

You must have a lot of confidence, though. How prepared do you feel to take this on?

I have really great support. The thing about working … for something like DC Comics is that you have this really intense editorial team who are incredibly knowledgeable.

Like, versus editors in sort of regular prose who are experts in your book, if you're an editor for something like DC Comics, you have to be an expert in an entire universe. ... It's definitely a team effort.

Concept sketches for Wonder Woman by Mikel Janín. (Mikel Janín/DC Comics)

I know it's hard to know an entire universe, but you must feel familiar enough with it to make the case for the ideas that you want to put forward.

I do. And I go back and I do new research for every character that I get to be a part of. So I [went] back and I read the most recent issues — in this example, I read Steve Orlando, who is on the current Wonder Woman team. And I tried to go back.

I mean, the thing with this is that it's so broad — like, the vast number of Wonder Woman comics that precede me, sometimes it's hard to take in. And then you have to sort of pick the ones that resonate with you as a reader and a writer, and sort of focus on those.

Do you feel you have to know every single comic that was ever written?

No. My God, no. I think you have to be a fan of comics, and I think you have to be a fan of the writing that you're sort of writing into.

The thing about this is you kind of have to be informed, but then write forward. I'm writing into a series ... in continuity. So I'm coming after a comic, and my issue has to address what has happened in the issue that precedes me directly. But then you also have to stay focused on what you do, and stay true to the thing that you do as a writer.

What do you hope to uncover about Wonder Woman's character while you're writing?

I don't know if it's a matter of uncovering, as kind of focusing on. … I'm not like Grant Morrison; I'm not going to go and sort of reinvent an entire universe and a new ideology and all of these things.

I tend to do much more character-driven work. ... I think it's interesting to sort of dig into the sort of lived lives of people that are larger than life. … I always said I love the details of like, what did Wonder Woman's apartment look like?

Oh my gosh. What does it look like?

I don't want to spoil it. But, you know, she's an Amazon. She's from a place of like, pillars and vases and stuff like that. And I think that very much affects her tastes. Let's say there's more than one vase in her house. Probably more than five.

One of the things that I have observed as DC and Marvel have kind of exploded into the popular culture is just that some of these characters are more malleable than we think in some of the newer treatments.

When you look at something like Thor: Ragnarok, that's so different than the comic book was itself or, you know, the kind of seriousness of the comic book versus the camp aesthetic of a show like that. So do you think that maybe there is more freedom here than one might imagine?

I think that there's definite freedom. And all comic book stories, all superhero stories are a reflection of their time, right? I mean, even just, you know, the racial and gender makeup of who we see being superheroes changes with time. Our perceptions of what is heroic changes.

I think one of the themes that emerged over the past 10 years is this idea of repercussions … and the idea of consequences, for even a hero. And that became a much bigger theme for all the Avengers movies, for example.

I understand — as a fan who has been a fan of something for a long time — that to have that change is not necessarily the best feeling. It's something that you intensely relate to. And I also see… that there's a new audience that doesn't have those those pre-existing connections who are, you know, more open maybe to seeing changes.

Written by Jonathan Ore. Interview produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin. Q&A edited for length and clarity. 

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